Monday, April 8, 2013

End of Season Race Recap

The clue-solving race season has come to an end in Phoenix. I'm so sad! I might have to look at some summer travel to do a few more races. :)

CityScape Adventures - March 16
How we did: First and Second Place in the race. Pat and I were a team and Brian/Irene were a team. We worked together but my team crossed the line first, so technically my team won. :)
What we wore: No costumes this time. The plan was for me to be a waitress and Pat to be a short order cook. That morning I went to the restaurant supply store to get him an apron and a hat, just making it back in time to get dressed and leave for the race. Alas, I had bought him a plastic dishwasher apron instead of a regular apron and it was WAY too hot for that.
Race Recap: I have done 2 out of the 3 CityScape Adventures that have come to Phoenix. We won both of those races. (We missed one because it was the same day as the 12Ks of Christmas and my dogs would have been very mad at me if I skipped taking them to that race!) Pat was my partner for the last CityScape so he got the nod for this race as well. He's not as fast as Christy but he has heart and he follows direction well.
Clues: Better than they have been in the past. Previously there were crossword puzzles and letter-solve puzzles all put on the same page so that the font was so small you could barely read any of the words. This time they gave a few clues on paper, a few clues via a scanned QR code and then the remaining clues after your bring back a scavenger item. Some of the clues were interactive where you text your answer and then you get a return text with the location. I liked receiving the clues in these different formats, it livened things up.
What went right: When we solved the initial set of clues, we saw that more clues would follow when we brought back a scavenger item. We did the scavenger item first off so that we would have all our clues from the start. This was very good since the second set of locations were near many of the first set of locations and we prevented a lot of backtracking. Generally I don't like working together as a team because keeping track of more than 2 people can be frustrating, but when we race as couples I think it helps alleviate some of the bickering that spouses can do when they are alone. It also helps you solve clues faster when there are 4 people working on them simultaneously.
What went wrong: One of our boys solved one of our clues wrong. We caught it before the end of the race so that was good, but we did have to backtrack a half mile to get the checkpoint.
Challenges: There weren't any challenges but there was a variety of finding scavenger items, interacting with strangers and checkpoints that required photos with certain poses. Previous races included challenges but they must have traded out the challenges for the interactive format of the clues.
Distance: It was pretty short and we didn't take any public transportation. I think our total distance was 3 miles.
Prizes: They did it right with the prizes. 1st place - Cash and a free entry to a future race. 2nd place - Less cash and a free entry to a future race. I don't recall the denominations of the prizes because we pooled them together and split them.
Overall Grade: B+. Overall a very decent race though I would like it to be just a bit longer.

Urban Dare - March 23
How we did: 4th Place in the race, no placement in the costume contest.
What we wore: We were lazy and went back to our Assault and Battery costumes. We got a hearty laugh from the crowd but were beaten out by some pirates.
Race Recap: We were originally registered to do the Scavenger Dash by Bike this day but when Urban Dare ran a Groupon, we changed our plans in an effort to win a cash prize. We've done a few Urban Dares previously but the past few years we have had conflicts with vacations and 10-day migraines so it's been a while. It was a gorgeous day for racing so we were just happy to be out and about!
Clues: All google searches.
What went right: We aren't very good in Scottsdale since we very rarely go there, but we got lucky that some of the destinations were places we had been in recent clue-solving races.
What went wrong: Our Scottsdale inexperience showed for most of the race. We had to put almost every destination into Google Maps. One of our destinations was a very popular sushi place right on Scottsdale Road. Everyone knows where it is...except us. We kept walking back and forth thinking we had passed it but we hadn't gone far enough down the street. We did the same thing looking for a sports memorabilia store. Google Maps had it pinpointed at the mall, but we just didn't think that an experienced race director would put a checkpoint in the mall because that would be a nightmare with security. Well, despite all our stupid attempts to find it by avoiding the mall, it actually was in the mall and as we thought, it was a nightmare with security. Security guards were chasing teams and yelling at teams all over the place. We also had issues with reading...a basic skill we supposedly mastered 35 years ago. We had to read one clue literally 10 times before we could understand it was a business we were looking for and not a statue. :)  I am still laughing about this!
Challenges: Ugh. My first clue-solving race was an Urban Dare 5 years ago. 5 years later, the race director is still using the SAME challenges! So lazy! It's not that hard to come up with new challenges every year.  And you'd think that after 5 years, he'd have them figured out. For the "scrabble dare" you have to search an area for sticks with letters on them. Each letter is assigned a value and you have to add up the value of your assigned word. Our word was "Celebratory". After searching for way too long and not finding a C, we went to the volunteer and asked what was up. "Oh there is no C. It's value is 31" she said. WHAT?! Don't you think you'd tell people that when you see them searching forever? Don't you think you'd make a replacement "C" and put it out there for all the people who had a C in their word? We finished 14 seconds behind the 2nd place team and 7 seconds behind the 3rd place team. Do you think the extra time wasted looking for a letter that wasn't there made a difference? I do! The team that placed 2nd also had "Celebratory". They were there at the same time we were and they gave up on the C before we did. They told us later that they just made up a number value to offer to the volunteer. It sounds like the volunteer was accepting any random answer because of the C issue, so the time we spent doing the math was also wasted. Luckily we were way behind the 1st place team or we would have seriously had an issue with this!
Distance: 4 miles all on foot. Public transportation is difficult in Scottsdale so the distance was good.
Prizes: 1st place - $300.  We qualified for next year's Super Dare with our 4th place finish.
Overall Grade: C-.  This grade gives him the benefit of the doubt and assumes that the scrabble dare challenge was correct to begin with and assumes that someone stole the missing letter. However, an experienced race director should be able to get his over-used challenges correct and he should also appear to care that there is an issue when it is reported to him. And seriously, what is up with using the same challenges year after year?! 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Mid-Season Race Recap

We are more than halfway through the clue-solving race season here in Phoenix so while the rest of the US waits for their seasons to start, I figured I'd give a recap of how things are going so far. The first five races of the season included: Scavenger Dash, Glow Rush, Great Urban Race, CitySolve Urban Race and the Urban Bike Adventure. Challenge Nation happened too, but I obviously didn't participate in that one! CityScape Adventures and Urban Dare are coming up in the next two weeks.

Scavenger Dash - January 26
How we did: FIRST PLACE in the race, tied for First Place in the costume contest. Someday we will get a dual first place without a tie!
What we wore: Bubblegum Machine costumes. The weather forecast was iffy for that day. We didn't plan on a costume since we didn't know what kind of weather to plan for. When we woke up that day, it was pouring rain and it looked like it would be pouring rain all day. We quickly brainstormed what kind of costume we could make with rain ponchos. Christy went to Target for red hats and red tights (we bought Jeggings! I never thought I'd own a pair!) and I went to Dollar Store and Party City for rain ponchos and balloons. We finished making our costumes with about 2 minutes to spare. They weren't the greatest Gumball Machine costumes in the world, but they were decent enough to earn some cheers and we were as dry as we could be during the race!
Race Recap: Like I mentioned, it was raining and it never stopped raining. Ever. The race took us 3 hours! 3 hours in non-stop pouring rain! Our maps were sogged into one unreadable wad of paper. Our phones were crashing. My feet were soaked since my ankle was not fully healed and I wasn't able to jump puddles, I just had to slog through them. But we still had a really great time!
Clues: Pretty good - a fun mix of puzzles and google look-ups. Bonus points for incorporating a clue about dog breeds! It's very rare that I get to show off my only topic of useless trivia and I loved it! A few people were put off by the Steele Indian School Park being called a "downtown" dog park but since it's the only dog park within racing distance we knew where to go. Some people had some major issues finding the specific part of an art installment "Ducks in A Row" but we only had minor issues. We took some pictures of the other parts of the installment at the light rail station but it just didn't feel right since none were specifically ducks. We finally realized we should search the entire light rail station (yes, even the FAR end!) and found what we were looking for.
What went right: One clue required a picture of our feet with a specific footprint plaque at a light rail stop. The footprint we needed was right outside our light rail car and we were able to get off, get the picture and get back on before the light rail took off again. Awesome! Also, our internet support was able to stay with us even after he went to his daughter's volleyball game so he continually helped us with bus times as we continually missed the original bus times or changed our plans/locations.
What went wrong: Nothing major but our costumes made some of the challenges a bit difficult, including a plank-ski challenge that would have been A LOT easier if we could have seen our feet. :)
Challenges: Pretty fun, as usual. Scavenger Dash consistently has the most fun challenges of the urban races. They even incorporated the weather in a challenge - one teammate held a cup with holes in it. The other teammate had another cup (without holes in it) and had to scoop up enough water from nearby puddles to fill the first cup before all the water leaked out of its holes.
Distance: Way too long! Our total mileage was over 15 miles and we ran almost 7 of them, which for my first real run on my ankle was way too much.  Apparently they had received feedback that their races are too short. Well, they certainly fixed that problem! :)
Prizes: 1st place - a free entry to a future race. 2nd place - a free entry to a future race. I don't mean to be a sore winner, but while a free race is awesome, I want more! (Especially since, as a huge fan of Scavenger Dash, I have already registered for all 3 races this year.) Other races give cash and gift cards or sponsor-donated stuff. Also, 1st place should get something more than 2nd. Yes, I'm whining. I admit it, I'm a sore winner.
Overall Grade: B+. You should definitely do this race when it comes to your town!

Glow Rush 5K - February16
How we did: Second Place in the race.
What we wore: No costumes this time. We wore our safety-green Storming the Castle t-shirts. The costume contest was going to be at the after-party and we had a casino night to go to so we didn't plan on staying for the contest. Our friends did win with their awesome Harlem Glow-Trotters costumes.
Race Recap: After putting on a really good initial race with their Phoenix Halloween Hunt, we were excited to do the second race put on by this organization. We won $500 at the first race so we were also looking forward to a decent prize if we won. Glow Rush 5K ran a bunch of Living Social deals and then even more deals and sent out a bunch of emails offering the deal price. With all that marketing they sold a TON of registrations!  It was right after New Years so they got the people with fitness as their resolution and they also got people who thought this was a "real" 5K with neon like the Neon Run. There were 1700 people there! For that many people, they did a pretty good job of organization and they gave away a lot of swag (t-shirt, cinch bag, lots of glow sticks).
Clues: All google searches. I knew 8 out of 10 without even looking them up.
What went right: I knew 8 out of 10 clues without looking them up. We ran as fast as my ankle and my sad state of cardio fitness could handle, there was no way we could have gone any faster.
What went wrong: It was so quick that I didn't even have time to map the destinations, I had to keep them all in my head. We passed one checkpoint (which had staffers handing out tickets or stamping clue sheets instead of picture-stops) because we thought the people gathered around were looking at a map. We're dumb sometimes. We had to backtrack a block after we realized our mistake.
Challenges: No challenges.
Distance: Way too short!! As I said, it was advertised as a 5K, which is just strange. You can't put a distance on a clue-solving race! Our total mileage was 2.5 and we finished in 31 minutes. 31 minutes! Good thing we had free entry from the Phoenix Halloween Hunt because 31 minutes isn't worth paying for.
Prizes: 1st place - One Alice Cooper Bobblehead. 2nd place - One Alice Cooper Bobblehead. Again, 1st and 2nd place should not get the same thing. And SERIOUSLY??!!!? ONE bobblehead as the prize for a TEAM event? How do you share a bobblehead (assuming that you even want a bobblehead)?? This is the lamest thing ever. At least give us a gift certificate for the host venue. Or  movie passes. Or 2 homemade certificates. Or something!
More Opinions: While I was initially impressed with the race directors from their first race, this one was really disappointing. When we arrived at the finish line, they weren't ready for us...and we weren't even first back! They should have realized after the first place team came through that more teams would be coming (duh). We had to ask them to check our clue sheets and tickets. We could have skipped half the clues and they wouldn't even have noticed. After the 3rd place team came in they said "Ok, all 3 teams are here, we can stop keeping track". Um, except that your website says there will be a Nationals and if you stop keeping track how will you know who qualified for Nationals? And your website says that times and results will be posted after the race. I told them they better take that off their website ASAP or they'd have some pretty pissed off racers (they took my advice). They didn't even give most of the finishing racers the courtesy of checking their clue sheets. Why bother assigning people to go to specific sites if no one cares if they even visit them? I would be very disappointed if I had finished out of the top 3 and didn't even know where I placed.
Overall Grade: D (they didn't get an F because they did a good job of managing 1700 people, which is a crazy-lot of people).  If you are just looking for a fun, silly night and you aren't particular about your races, this race could be a fun time out playing with your friends. If you are looking for a quality clue-solving race, this race isn't for you.

Great Urban Race - February 23
How we did: We didn't.
Recap: This is the race I look forward to the most every year and it's the race we have been doing the longest. After a complete mess last year, we were hoping that we would redeem ourselves and that the few missteps that GUR made in their planning would be rectified as well. Also, Nationals are in San Juan this year so we were already planning for that! The Friday night before the race, I got a call from a Chicago number. It was a GUR staffer telling me that they were unable to get permits and the race was cancelled. WHAT?! First of all, this is something I would expect from other race operators and newbies to the scene but not from the big-daddy of the clue-solving race circuit. I was so upset!
 More ranting: Last year I was mad because I fell for their "Buy early for the lowest prices!!!" email and paid $30 more than the Groupon they ran later. I feel that it is just bad business to screw your loyal racer base. It's even worse to cancel a race the night before! I'm somewhat suspicious about the permit thing since most races like this don't get permits, but someone did mention that they might have needed a permit at the venue for going over capacity or for hosting an event in the plaza around the venue. I guess it doesn't really matter since whatever the reason, I didn't get to race and I didn't get to qualify for Nationals. And I also didn't get a t-shirt for the first year in forever. :(
Follow up: They sent an email offering free entry to another GUR and asked that you reply by March 15. I have replied twice now and have not heard a single response from them. Now that is seriously bad business!! I thought the personal phone call about the cancellation was great and even defended them quite a bit on their facebook page but how can they not reply to their own request about rescheduling a new race?
Overall Grade: F-

CitySolve Urban Race - March 2
How we did: Third Place in the race and First Place in the costume contest.
What we wore: Christy unexpectedly went to Florida to visit her ailing grandfather so two days before the race I asked Irene to be my partner. The text conversation went like this,
Me - Christy went to FL, can you do CitySolve with me on Saturday?
Irene - I'll check with Brian to see if he can stay with the kids.
Irene - Ok, we got everything taken care of, I can race with you.
Me - Great! And btw, you have to be a zebra.
Luckily, Irene is a good sport and she embraced the zebra. She was a zebra and I was a giraffe, we wore party hats and pulled party popper streamers and blew party horns because we were PARTY ANIMALS! Yeah, so clever. :) It was Irene's awesome face painting skills that won the contest. I wish it had something to do with the 4 HOURS I spent painting giraffe spots on a shirt with the skill and finesse of 4 year old but the win belongs to Irene.
Race Recap: After last year's starting snafu, Jason had a lot of ground to make up. And he did. He came through with a near perfect race!
Clues: Mostly puzzles, which is fun but makes my strategy of instant movement impossible. The clues were also very specific about things you couldn't do or had to do which I appreciated! They were also all correct. Bonus points for including a clue with a picture of a Coyotes player! I can tell you the name and number of every player on the team. So happy they didn't choose a Sun, a Cardinal or a Diamondback!!
What went right: Uh... we won the costume contest. That's about it.
What went wrong: When I think of all the things that went wrong, I can't believe we finished 3rd! First of all, as soon as I solved that one of our destinations was Encanto Park, I called our clue solver and told him to stop solving clues and to get me time/location for the next bus to Encanto. He told me 12:25 at the Central Station. Cool. We got there at 12:20 and waited for the bus. And waited. It was important to get the bus to Encanto so we could save ourselves 1.5 miles of running. Running is always our weak point. So we kept waiting for the very late arriving bus. Finally, at 12:35 I called our clue solver to see what was going on. Turns out he gave us the time for the WEEKDAY bus, not the Saturday bus. Oh, was I mad!! We sat around getting nothing but one tic-tac-toe clue accomplished in 15 minutes!! The next bus was still 15 minutes away so we had to change course and do the close ones first. Gr. Then I missed a checkpoint that was mapped on page 2 of my maps so we had to go back and get it later. Then I yelled at Irene about a mural (sorry, Irene!). Then we found some people painting a wall and asked them to paint the words that we needed for the bonus clue, not realizing until later that every team would pass by this same wall and get the same exact picture for the same exact bonus time. And our big losing decision was choosing to wait the 10 scheduled minutes for the light rail after our last checkpoint. The light rail was then 5 minutes late and taking into account the time it took to take us to ride to our destination, we checked in 20+ minutes after we finished our last checkpoint. Had we sucked it up and run to the finish, we would have made it there in 13-14 minutes and won the race. We are lazy and we deserved to lose.
Challenges: Good. One was even educational and tied in the race charity! We had to throw a cornhole bag into the hole with our arm weighted with 2 six-pound weights. This was to show how ALS affects your body so that your motions don't seem to be your own. Pretty good idea for a challenge!
Distance: Perfect! Total distance was 8 miles of which we ran 4 1/2. Perfect!
Prizes: 1st place - $300, 2nd place - $150, 3rd place - $50. Very nice!!!  For the costume contest though, we got ONE JammyPack for our team of two. Last year we won the costume contest and still haven't gotten our prize so I guess one item is better than none. Jason said he would email the prize company and cc me so I can follow up with them; and with one reminder he did, so I'll have my prizes soon. :)
Overall Grade: A.  If you haven't done a CitySolve in a while, it might be time to come back.

The Urban Bike Adventure - March 10
How we did: First Place in the race. (I was expecting to get 4th since I got 1st in my first race, 2nd in my second race and 3rd in my third race so I was starting to see a pattern...)
What we wore: We wore red t-shirts. We had a team of 4; me, Pat, Brian and Irene. We should have worn a costume because no other team did and we would have won the costume contest.
Race Recap: I was not impressed with last year's race even though overall it wasn't that bad. I was just annoyed that the winning teams got dog tags (that's it) and the non-winning teams "won" (i.e. were assigned, literally) raffle prizes like restaurant gift certificates and racing jerseys, and because it was windy, and I'm a terrible biker, and I was on a mountain bike, and I was slow, and...a bunch of other whiny reasons that didn't have much to do with the race at all. I only signed up this year because they offered a very good return-racer discount. Then they moved the race from downtown Phoenix (my home turf) to Chandler (where I've been only once in my life). I was very pessimistic going into this one. However, it was pretty darn good! Great job, TUBA people!
Clues: Fairly easy but a nice combination of google clues and picture clues.
What went right: Just about everything. We couldn't have been more on our game.
What went wrong: First of all, we failed to read the part of the clue that said "Challenge open from 12:30 - 3:00" and we chose that as our first destination and got mad that we couldn't find the checkpoint at 12:24 when we got there. :) Second, Irene was pretty slow on her mountain bike compared to the rest of us on our road bikes, so Brian pushed her most of the way. He is awesome!
Challenges: Good! Last year there were no challenges so anything would have been appreciated. This time they had 3 physical challenges, all of which were fun.
Distance: I'm not sure how long a bike race should be, but this one was 15 miles and took about 2 hours. That seemed like a good distance.
Prizes: For first place we got a $30 gift certificate from Road ID and $20 to the host restaurant. Not a huge prize, but good enough for a very small race and better than last year. I don't know what 2nd place got.
Overall Grade: A.  If you haven't done this race before, you should check it out!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The End of an Era

For the past 10 years I have played soccer at the Castle Sports Club 4 (or more) times a week. For a while I was playing 3 leagues on Sunday, Monday night, Wednesday night and Thursday night. I was a premier member which meant I also had access to the gym where I worked out quite a bit. During that 10 years we also played roller hockey at the Castle. Pretty much, the Castle has been my home away from home for a really long time.

There has always been some frustrations with the Castle - refs who don't pay attention, not enough soccer balls, our players not showing up, other teams forfeiting, indoor games getting canceled due to rain, horrible conditions on the outdoor field, fights, etc, etc.  But for the most part, those frustrations were outweighed by the facts that I like playing soccer, I like my teams, I like that it is only 3 minutes from home, I like that it is comfortable.

Lately though, the frustrations have been getting to the point where I can't look past them anymore. Just as an example - a few weeks ago, the soccer director and the ref yelled at my team for whining when we asked if we could use a ball that wouldn't draw blood. 3 people were already bleeding from the peeling plastic parts of the ball cutting them when it hit them. We were such "whiners" for asking for a good ball, that the soccer director refused to give us the good ball because someone's toddler was sitting on it and that was more important than 2 paying teams getting to play. This kind of stupidity happens a lot and we usually just brush it off, but lately it's getting harder and harder to do so.

In addition to that, Jace and Christy stopped playing on Mondays and Thursdays (because of work and kid commitments) and despite bringing in a bunch of new people to replace them, no one stuck. We forfeited all the time and I HATE forfeits. And in addition to that, teams are dropping out like crazy. Leagues that used to have 8 teams are down to 4 teams. And usually, at least one of those teams forfeits each week.

It got to be too frustrating. My team withdrew from Mondays and Thursdays so now we play only on Sundays. We are considering quitting Sundays, too.  So sad - it's the end of an era!

This is the first season of the reduced soccer schedule and it is really sad. I miss seeing my soccer friends on a regular basis. I'm super lazy since I have so much free time and I have a lot more time to eat now, so I've been doing a lot of that! :)

To help combat the laziness and overeating, I joined an Ultimate Frisbee league. Yes, I'm about as good at throwing a frisbee as I am at flying or speaking chinese, but I joined anyway. As expected, I suck. I'm not exactly sure I like it. Games are 2 hours long and I don't seem to have the attention span for that. And being a sucky player, I'm pretty much just taking up space on the field. No one really throws it to me and I'm assigned to guard the sucky people on the other teams who also never get the frisbee, so I'm barely playing any defense either. Pretty much I'm just running up and down the field for two hours for no reason. Perhaps it will get better when I get better?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Winning Mr. Winston

Meet Winston!
Winston is a 3 year old Chihuahua mix who just had FHO surgery. He will be recuperating at our house for the next four weeks. I am currently reading 1984 for book club so I named him after the main character. Big Brother is watching you, Winston!

We've only had him for 3 days, but he is already making himself quite at home!
I love an easy foster, and Winston is certainly that. He is housetrained, he gets along with the dogs and he doesn't bark much. He does do this hilarious "talking" thing when you are eating and not giving him any of your food. I've never seen begging quite like it. He doesn't bark at you but he is very vocal. I'll have to try to get it on video.

Yo Quiero Taco Bell:

After we finished eating our super-healthy Taco Bell lunch with Winston chirping at us the whole time, Pat let Winston up on his lap. Winston immediately put his front paws on the table and pulled the Taco Bell box all the way to the edge of the table so he could scavenge for crumbs. It was so cute. He doesn't know Pat very well yet, or he would have known there would be no crumbs left over!

Updated a few days later:  I took Winston over to meet the Bacon Bits. He loved all the kids but he gravitated towards the youngest one. We were all sitting in a circle on the floor and he was scared of their cat. When the cat would come around, he'd run over to Maggie, who is 9, and hide in her lap. It was very cute.

Winston is also scared of my cat. For the first few days, he accepted Al but was nervous about it. As he was around Al more, he got more scared of him and started trying to run him off. Twice when I was watching hockey sitting on the couch with Winston in my lap and Al next to me, Winston tried to attack Al. The first time it happened, Al spooked and ran away. The second time it happened, Al wasn't phased at all (I love this cat - he is so awesome!) and just stayed put. You could almost hear him thinking "Oh, please, little chihuahua. I am so above fighting, but if it came down to it, I would kick your ass. So just simmer down now."  Poor Winston was now scared and mad so he upped the attack. Kitty still did nothing so I removed Winston to chill in his crate for awhile. 

So, I guess we'll say good with children and bad with cats. :) 

Updated March 18:  Winston passed his vet exam two weeks early (he's a good healer!) and went up for adoption. Sadly, TWO weekends have passed and Winston is still at the shelter. He is such a people-oriented little guy, I bet that he's just wilting there. I'm afraid that people aren't getting to see his true happy nature. If you know of anyone in the market for a little dog to live in a cat-free home, send them to the Arizona Humane Society Campus for Compassion. Poor little Winston.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

2013 Race Calendar

My 2013 race season started on January 26. I will be doing 14 races in 13 weeks. Hopefully, by the end of that time, I will be back in shape. I cannot believe how ridiculously out of shape I got during my ankle injury hiatus!

Here's the list of scheduled races:

January 26 - Scavenger Dash in Phoenix (After 3 hours of racing in non-stop rain, we finished FIRST and tied for the costume contest win!)
Feb 2/3 - no races, had to work on the weekend. Boo.
February 9 - Spartan Race (Our goal was to finish, and we did! We only had to do burpees at the spear throw.)
February 16 - Glow Rush Scavenger Hunt in Phoenix (We finished second in the shortest race ever - it only took us 31 minutes)
February 23 - Great Urban Race in Tempe
February 24 - Tough Mudder
March 2 - Retro Run 5K with Frankie and Georgie!
March 2 - CitySolve Urban Race in Phoenix
March 9 - Survivor Mud Run
March 10 - Urban Bike Adventure in Phoenix
March 16 - CityScape Adventure in Scottsdale
March 23 - Scavenger Ride in Phoenix. This is the same day as Urban Dare. Bummer.
March 23 - Neon Run
March 30 - nothing scheduled, going camping for a wedding
April 6 - Nothing scheduled - I'm open to suggestions if anyone is planning on signing up for something!
April 13 - Firefly Run. I've got to start working on a costume so I can defend my title!
April 20 - Cahoots Prison Break

What's missing? Challenge Nation - NO WAY! Urban Beer Hunt - not worth repeating, Toro Loco Challenge - I'm all signed up and the company has disappeared, my money with them. Bastards.

During the summer I'll do a few adventure races, hopefully, and Part 2 of the 2013 race season will start in September. Part 2 already includes a triathlon, Gilmore Adventure Race and Rugged Maniac.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


We had a crazy, record-breaking cold January. Temperatures below freezing for multiple nights in a row, which is quite unusual in Phoenix! On one of these ridiculously cold days, I saw a loose dog near the park by my house while I was driving home from work. It was a pit bull mix and I could tell she was wearing a collar.

As soon as I saw her, I slowed down. She watched me. I turned the car around to park. She watched me. I got out of the car. She watched me. I opened the back door and asked if she wanted to go for a ride. She watched me. I got out a leash and some treats. She watched me. I crossed the street, walking toward her. She watched me. I got closer. She backed away, still watching me. I got out my treats and threw one towards her. She ate it, still watching me. She was very wary but also interested in befriending me.

After about 15 minutes freezing my ass off and going through almost a full bag of treats, I was able to grab her collar and slip the leash on her. As soon as the leash was on, she was immediately trusting of me like we had been friends forever. We walked around the neighborhood going door-to-door asking the neighbors if they knew her. No one knew her but I was told that she had been loose in the area for two days. This means that she was out overnight with the temperatures below freezing!! Poor little girl! No wonder she was so willing to let me catch her!

I took her to the park and asked the families there if they knew her. No luck. I took her to the EAC to have them scan for a chip. No luck. So I took her home. It took quite a bit of maneuvering to get my dogs in and out and fed, and her in and out and fed without them meeting. She seemed friendly but Frankie is sometimes sketchy and Mo doesn't always like big dogs so I didn't want to introduce them without Pat being there to hold one of the leashes. Also, it was dark out now and she was a black dog so I wouldn't really be able to see her body language when she was being introduced. So, I tied her up to the boat for a bit and I left her in the car for a bit while I moved everyone around. She was completely patient though it all. Every time I came back to her, she wagged and wiggled like crazy!

Finally I brought her into the house and to the guest room. She plopped right up onto the bed and stretched out. She almost immediately fell asleep. She must have been completely worn out from being out in the cold for all that time!
I did everything I could to find her owners. She was so well-behaved and she had on a brand new sparkly pink collar so she had to belong to someone! I searched all the websites for lost dog posts. I posted on Craigslist and PetHarbor. I posted her on my facebook wall and on a bunch of other facebook pages. I posted signs all over the neighborhood on my way to work the next day. It was 28 degrees out! My fingers were about to fall off! I emailed my neighbors. So many people pitched in to help spread the word. One of my neighbor friends emailed our Neighborhood Watch Captain and he sent her picture out to the whole area. People forwarded that email and people forwarded that. I knew it was working when I was a recipient of one of the emails! The facebook picture was shared 657 times! I posted more signs at the shelters. I posted new ads on Craigslist. And after a week...still nothing! :(

Over that week, my stray pit bull mix proved to be one of the most well-behaved, most friendly dogs ever! She liked my dogs. She ignored the cat. We had the Chocolate Chihuahua at the same time and she completely ignored the Little Shit's aggressive demeanor. She was a bit afraid of Pat at first, and other men who visited, but never showed any signs of fear-aggression and she warmed up quickly. She loved to cuddle and loved hugs. She never chewed on anything other than the bones we gave her. She was house trained. We called her Sweetie, which didn't seem like a "real" name so I changed it to Sweden. A dog named Sweden should have blond hair and blue eyes, right? Ha, not this one!  Tail wagging:
She didn't know any commands when I found her, but she learned sit in a matter of 10 minutes. She quickly learned she had to sit/stay before I would dole out her dinner. She was a smart cookie!

She was the exact same size as Mo, but weighed 10 pounds more. Yet, she still thought she fit in this dog bed:
With all the emails and all the facebook photo shares going around, I had five people contact me to say they were interested in her! So awesome! I did three family visits. One family didn't work out because they were looking for a dog to wrestle and play with their black lab. Sweden and the lab got along just fine but Sweden wasn't interested in playing. She is much more interested in hanging out with her people than playing with dogs. Another guy didn't work out because his rescue pit/border collie mix (who looked a lot like Sweden!) did not like her at all. She was scared of him and hid behind me. In the end, Sweden went to a family in Glendale who used to have a Rottie (he died of old age) and felt they were ready for another dog. They have no other pets and the mom fell in love with Sweden at first sight!

Sweden's name is now Lilly. She was a wonderful house guest and I hope she has a long and happy life with her new family!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Chocolate Chihuahua

We fostered this little guy for two weeks in January while he recovered from kennel cough. 
His real name was Ringo but we never called him that. It was always either The Chocolate Chihuahua or Little Shit.

If I wasn't so diplomatic when filling out his kennel card information, it would have read like this:
Here we have a little shit of a dog. He is a pain in the ass, not very affectionate and not very smart. He is aloof and stand-offish, which appears to be more of a personality trait than an outcome of being fearful or previous bad treatment. He will tolerate cuddling when it's cold but that's only because he's seeking your warmth. He will run out any open door and will not come when called nor will he chase you if you turn around and run the other way. He is scared of cats. He will tolerate dogs that you introduce him to while he's too sick to care, but after that, any big dogs he meets will be greeted with growls and lip curls as he has a big case of Little Man Complex.  He isn't very cute with those permanently red-rimmed eyes. His only redeeming traits are that he is 100% house trained, walks well on a leash, and he likes to burrow under the blankets which is moderately entertaining. If you choose to adopt this little shit, we hope you have a good sense of humor and a strong sense of self so you won't feel bad when your dog doesn't like you.
His kennel card ended up just saying generic stuff like he likes to go for walks. :) He was adopted in 3 days. I hope his new people are a better match for him than I was! I've been looking at the website for the past few weeks and the Chocolate Chihuahua has not showed up again, so I guess his new family have decided to keep him and he hasn't run away yet!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

How Not To Get On TV

How many times have I applied to be on the Amazing Race? At least 15, maybe more. How many times have I made it to the interview stage? Exactly zero. Apparently I suck at application videos. Or maybe I'm just dull.

It's not that I want to be on TV actually -  I just really want to compete in this type of competition!!!  And this type of competition only happens on TV.  When I heard a new adventure show was casting teams of two, I got excited! It's a Bear Grylls survival show which isn't exactly what I'm looking for since I don't really want to eat gross things. But I'm attracted to anything that bills itself as an "Adventure Show" so I knew I would have to apply. Instead of making yet another sucky application video, I roped Irene into spending a full day in line with a million other people at a casting call.

I figured that with a million other people who are pretty similar to us, the casting people would have their eyes glazed over by the time they saw us. We'd be just another boring couple. They were doing group interviews too, so with only 1/5 of the allotted interview time we had even less of a chance to stand out. I thought maybe we needed something to get their attention.

We walked into the interview room with 4 other teams. There was a long table with 10 chairs around the outside. They asked us all to sit down. Instead of sitting down, Irene said, "We have something prepared". The casting girl looked surprised and Irene hit play on her ipod...and then we did this:

Bare Necessities. Get it? Bear Grylls. Bare Necessities. Ah, so clever, right?! Our hands say "PICK US". We have on our matchy-matchy adventure race team shirts. Pretty awesome, huh?!

The casting girl looked a little shocked and said, "No one has ever done THAT before."  And then she went on with the group interview.

We didn't get a call back.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sprained Ankles Suck

I'm 41 years old and I've never been injured, unless you count the time I fell off the Fire Engine bars in the playground in 3rd grade and split my chin open.

I've been playing soccer for over 10 years and I've never been injured. Don't get me wrong, I've gotten hurt a lot. As you know, I have a tendency to take a ball to the face at least once a season. I also get knocked down a lot. Many times I've thought that I was injured only to find that there was very little pain left when the adrenaline of the hit/fall/kick wore off. I have a very low pain tolerance so any little hit hurts like the dickens. But never has any of my hurts equaled a full blown injury. Until now.  :(

I sprained my ankle playing soccer on November 11th. I was running next to a guy who was taking the ball toward our goal. He's really, really good with a very strong shot. I stuck my foot out in front of the shot to block it. I blocked it alright! My foot wasn't quite on the ground as the ball hit it and the force of the ball turned my foot inward causing me to land on my ankle instead of my foot. I heard a loud 'pop' as I went down and I knew I was done for. No one noticed that I was injured, not even the guy who shot the ball or Jace (the goalie) who saw it all, because there was no contact on the play. Play continued until I got Jace's attention for some help to get me off the field.

When I finally got to the bench, the other players determined that it wasn't broken since I could wiggle my toes. (Is this even true?) That sounded good to me because that meant it was just sprained and being uninitiated into the world of sports injuries, I was sure that a sprain was much better than a break.

I wish.

The next two days I couldn't put any weight on my ankle at all. I was on crutches for most of the time, though I have to admit that they slowed me down way too much so around the house I either hopped or crawled. It was faster!

This is how swollen it was initially. Finding shoes to wear to work was a problem! 

I limped for the next month. It was ridiculous. A friend at work loaned me a boot to stabilize it but it was too big and the rubbing on my calves was so painful that I stopped using it.

It was taking forever to heal. After 6 weeks the swelling had barely gone down. I finally went to Urgent Care ($140 after insurance). They did an x-ray and verified that it wasn't broken. They gave me prescriptions for two pain meds even though I told them the pain wasn't that bad at all, I was just worried because it wasn't healing. The next week I went to an orthopedist ($74 after insurance). I was in his office for a total of 3 minutes! 30 seconds of that time was taking off my shoe and sock. He felt around my ankle, declared it sprained, told me I didn't need physical therapy and there was no need to ice it and to resume regular activity. I told him my regular activity was soccer and hiking. He got annoyed and said "regular activity within reason" and left. 

A week later I had an appointment for a check-up with a potential new doctor (my regular doctor quit practicing to become a full-time instructor). This doctor was awesome. She was incredulous that an orthopedist didn't give me any follow-up care guidelines or any instructions at all. She gave me a list of exercises to do to regain range of motion and to strengthen it. She told me to take ibuprofen and to ice it after activity.  She recommended two braces to wear, one for regular day-to-day and one for soccer/hiking/running.

For almost three months I've done nothing active. Well, I did limp my way through Rugged Maniac because it's such a fun race and since it was the week after the injury I figured it hadn't healed enough to be causing any regression. After that, though, I didn't do anything. I didn't walk the dogs since they have a tendency to pull when they see a cat or smell a good smell or even just when they have to pee, and my ankle wasn't strong enough even to take that. I didn't play soccer (obviously) but I did go to almost every game and stand on the field so that the teams wouldn't forfeit. I wasn't able to hike. I wasn't able to run. I wasn't able to do anything. It was very frustrating! I gained 10 pounds in less than 3 months. That is sad. I packed away my skinny clothes and dug under the bed for the storage box of my fat clothes. I'm glad I saved them or I'd have nothing to wear for work!

In the last two weeks, I have started being able to run with my brace on. It's a limping run with only about 2/3 of my usual stride, but it's something. I've gone hiking a few times but I've only done flat hikes; I don't think I'm quite ready for climbing any summits. The ankle still hurts. I have a limited range of motion. But, it's slowly getting better. I'm looking forward to the day when I can jump again!

Sprained ankles suck.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Goal for 2013

This one isn't a resolution like the ones listed in the last post; this one is a goal. I have no idea what the functional difference between a resolution and a goal is, but I'm calling this one a goal anyway.

My goal is to be able to do this again:

Back in the fall when I was working out after soccer games, I saw some volleyball girls doing box jumps at the gym. I was totally jealous of how high they could jump. One day when they weren't there, I gave it a go. I was very, very surprised and very, very happy to find out that I could jump just as high as those girls! (Even in soccer cleats!) Woo hoo!  I was so excited that I made Julie videotape me.

It was kind of scary so the highest I dared to do was 36". I wanted to jump higher so I decided that I was going to work on box jumps every time I was at the gym! This video was taken on Thursday, November 8th. The next time I was at the Castle was Sunday, November 11. I fully intended to work on my jumps after my soccer games.

but then...

Gr! In my second game I sprained my ankle really, really bad. I was carried off the field and was on crutches for the next few days. So much for working on box jumps. :(  So much for doing ANYTHING, for that matter. :(  Boo.

So the goal now is to get my ankle strong enough to be able to jump 36" again. Or higher!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 - My Favorite Year?

Yippee! It's 2013. 13 is my favorite number so I'm counting on 2013 being my favorite year ever!

I've made some resolutions and I'm sharing them with you, the worldwide web, in hopes that you, the worldwide web, will hold me accountable.  Feel free to blast me when I start to fail!

  1. Be more positive. Sometimes I feel that the only conversation I have with people is sharing gripes and annoyances. Most of those gripes and annoyances are pretty minor so I'm planning to just let them go and share positive and funny conversation instead.
  2. Walk the dogs!  Since I sprained my ankle at the beginning of November, the poor pups have been missing out on lots of walks. We've got a lot of catching up to do!
  3. Blog more.
  4. Rim-to-rim-to-rim in 2 days. This is hiking the Grand Canyon from the South Rim to the North rim in one day, spend the night at the hotel on the North Rim and then return to the South Rim the next day. It's 24 miles each way.
  5. And the one that will probably not happen...become a "real" athlete. I want to lower my 5K PR. I want to run a 10K if for no other reason than to have a PR. I want to do a triathlon. I want to preform well at the obstacle races. The reason this probably won't happen is because, despite what I resolve and despite the results I want, I still HATE running.
So, how am I doing so far, two days into my favorite year?
  1. Not so good on this one. Work today was frustrating and I found myself griping about the lack of assistance I was receiving on a project that requires assistance. Then later I joined in on a griping session about the layout of our new offices because they reduced our departments storage space by half. While both of these events were frustrating, I need to stop the complaining! This resolution will need more determination on my part!
  2. 100%!  I walked the dogs before our annual New Years Day Game Day yesterday and I walked them this evening after work. 100%! Woo hoo!
  3. Well, this right here is a blog post so I'm on my way. I only posted 24 posts in all of 2012, so "more" shouldn't be hard to reach, right?
  4.  We are planning on going at the end of September. I am currently unable to train though because my ankle sprain refuses to heal. Not going hiking has been driving me crazy!! Yesterday I ran for the first time in over two months. My "run" was from the door of Irene's house to my car parked at the curb and back. A whopping 15 steps and then I had to ice my ankle. Tonight's walk was only 1.5 miles and I was limping by the time I finished. I don't know when I'll be able to start hiking again. 
  5. Yeah, this ankle thing is hindering the progress on this one too. On a positive note (see #1) I did do pull-ups at the park yesterday while out walking the dogs! I could only do 3 sets of 2, but truthfully that is better than I thought I could do after two full months of doing nothing! Yay, me! Another positive - I have already signed up for the triathlon. It's September 22. My rim-to-rim-to-rim training should help me with my stamina. I'm counting on my friend Emily to teach me how to swim. As for the bike, well, I'll probably have to cry my way through it.

Have a wonderful 2013! May it be your favorite year, too!